Aiden hated math. Whenever he thought about all those numbers flying around in his head, he despised it so much, it was enough to make him sick to his stomach. The only thing Aiden hated more than math was his math teacher. Mr. Sclerosis was one of those teachers that absolutely loved math and thought that knowing enough mathematics would allow any child to save the world, if they only practiced their equations enough.
He glanced again at the clock in his math class: 3:02. School ended at 3:30, and he wanted it to be over so badly he couldn’t hold his feet still. Graduation was only one week away, and he had already locked in his grade in the class. He was getting an F, and there was nothing he could do about it. He didn’t want to waste any more time sitting in the soul-sucking recesses of that classroom, but he had already had too many absences on his record and he DID still want to graduate. He couldn’t take it if he ended up having to come back to that place for another year. So there he sat, listening to his teacher emphatically impart his seemingly priceless knowledge that not a single student was remotely interested in learning.
“Hey, Aiden,” hissed the girl in the next row, getting his attention, “We still on for after school? Or do your parents want you home again?” It was Araleia, one of Aiden’s best-friends, mostly due to the charming, snarky demeanor they shared. She and Aiden had lived across the street from each other since they were in grade school, and they were close friends. Aiden had never liked her cracks about his parents, who seemed to be allergic to having fun of any kind. However, Araleia never seemed to care whether it bothered him or not. It was one of the things that Aiden liked in a friend: thick skin. He was hard to offend, and he preferred that his friends were also so that he could just be himself without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings.
Araleia’s nickname in the school was “Ice Queen.” Everything she thought came out of her mouth, and it did a good job keeping most people from getting to close to her. It bothered everyone else in the school, except for Aiden. Aiden figured that if he ever saw Araleia actually show a genuine emotion, he would probably go blind and pass out.
“We better be.” The boy behind him hissed back. “If I have to hear one more lecture about quadratic equations, you both will be cleaning parts of my brain off the wall. The thought of getting some good, greasy food in me is all that is keeping me going at this point.”
It was David, Aiden’s best friend, and the only other person who could deal with Araleia. Ever since kindergarten, when David ran up to Aiden, pushed him into the ground and asked, “Want to be friends?” they had been inseparable. Many people thought they could have been twins, if it wasn’t for the difference in their hair color. Aiden’s hair was light, sandy brown while David’s was dark brown, almost black. Aiden always thought David was hilarious, and he appreciated the way that David would always stand up for them. Other people tended to see David a bit differently, thinking him more a class-A jerk, but Aiden saw through that. David was a rare type: a true friend that would stick by you no matter what the circumstances.
“So that’s what you consider brain food?” Aiden replied. “Does the fat and grease help you tinker?” David was always constantly building things, and he always had a project going. Aiden’s favorite creation of David’s was a device that let him highjack any signal, anywhere, giving him free wireless internet wherever he wants. David had built it in about 5 minutes, all while they were having a full conversation.
“You bet. The grease helps keep the wheels moving up here.” David rationalized, tapping the side of his head with his finger, indicating his brain.
“I can’t wait till your metabolism slows down and you finally get fat off of all that junk food.” Araleia joked, with a smirk that told you it was only half a joke. “It’s going to be glorious.”
“Aiden, you feel a chill in here?” David retorted, rubbing his shoulders as if he was cold. Aiden snorted and the teacher scolded him, effectively ending the conversation.
After class the three went to their lockers, as they were walking Araleia ran up behind Aiden, grabbing his arm. “Oh my word, your hands are ALWAYS freezing!” Aiden exclaimed, feeling the cold skin on his arm.
“And you are always so warm. What’s your point?” Araleia scowled.
“I didn’t mean it as an insult…” Aiden began to protest.
“Neither did I. Come on, let’s gets some food, I’m starving.” She insisted, suddenly dismissing the entire issue.
That’s Ari for you. Aiden thought. She was had earned her nickname for a reason. She never seemed to get mad, and let everything go without seeming to give it a second thought. Aiden was so happy she wasn’t like the other girls at his school, who were completely unstable, as far as he could tell.
“Yes, let’s go. You wouldn’t want to deprive me of my much needed brain lubricant, would you?” David quipped, quickly walking around them to his car. At least David called it a car. Aiden called it a glorified go-kart. It was tiny, old, and maybe 4 feet tall at the highest point, but it was faster than it looked. David was always making changes and modifications, but only on the inside. The outside left quite a bit to be desired. Aiden didn’t mind riding in it, and Araleia didn’t seem to care mostly because David was the only of them with a car, so they couldn’t really complain about it. They all crawled into the tiny space inside the car, which was technically able to hold 4 people, but it seemed two actually hold somewhere closer to 2 and a half.
“When are you going to build me my own car?” Aiden asked his friend, while checking his online profile on his phone. He made a point to pester his best friend about this subject at least once a day. David always said he would, but then the thought would seem to leak out of his brain at the first possible moment. While David was a whiz with machines, Aiden never could even get the toaster to toast his bread the way he wanted it. Aiden couldn’t stand machines, and the feeling seemed to be mutual.
“When you buy a car, and when you pay me to fix it up for you, that’s when I will. What makes you think I’m going to do it for free?” David asked, raising an eyebrow as he started the car. It revved to life, so loud that the whole car rattled like a chain-link fence holding a rabid Rottweiler.
“He just wants a car. Couldn’t you do it and let him pay you back or something?” Araleia scolded, not understanding the problem. “Or do you just enjoy being a jerk about it?”
“Oh Ari, never work for a promise, they rarely are kept.” David preached, sounding like a bad fortune cookie.
“Please, Aiden isn’t your dad.” Araleia shot back.
David slammed the car to a halt, eyes fuming with rage. His breathing immediately became heavy. He rounded on her, looking like he was ready to try to jump into the back seat and take her head off. Suddenly he swallowed the rage, trapping it in some box deep inside his stomach. “Now, why would you have to go and ruin a great burger run like that?” David asked in a fake voice that reminded Aiden of a used car salesman.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize that you weren’t aware of your trust issues. We don’t blame you. If I had a drunk, abusive father who couldn’t keep a promise to save his life, I wouldn’t trust people either.” Aiden could see David’s hands tighten on the wheel as the car tore off to the burger place.